It’s time to put hard facts to the misguided principles of Idyllwild Water and Fire Protection districts’ hydrant system.

Two required hydrant-flow surveys were conducted Nov. 10, 2006, and July 29, 2015. The 2006 survey monitored eight IWD residential hydrants (two actually mislabeled as IWD hydrants instead of Fern Valley, so, in fact, six residential hydrants). Half failed to meet mandatory minimum flow rates by a lot.

In July 2015, six IWD residential hydrants were surveyed. Half again failed to meet minimum flow rates by a lot. Interestingly, they too failed during the 2006 survey. No new hydrants were tested.

Here are the failed IWD 2015 residential hydrant results. If you live near one of these hydrants, your safety is gravely compromised. Within the July 2015 survey, Test 3 of Rockdale and Fernleaf drives required flow 1,000 gallons per minute. Observed flow was 600 gpm.

Test 11 of Westridge Road and Robin Drive required 750 gpm. Observed flow was 500 gpm.

Test 13 Village View Drive east of Ridgecrest  required 750 gpm. Observed flow was 300 gpm.

Dozens of small single-outlet IWD residential hydrants are spaced at times 1,000 feet or more greater than any other Hill district and having the fewest high-flow hydrants on the Hill.

That’s bad but what’s tragic is no one knows how many fail to meet minimum-flow requirements or at least they say no written records exist showing flow-rate adequacy or failures for most of the hydrants.

Both Idyllwild Fire and Water are complicit here. In fact, for decades they chose not to find out.  To date, only a handful are tested, and the same ones at that.

No excuses should be spouted. Flow rates can be tested without losing a drop of water, and with existing equipment.

The facts are simple. If it’s not an 8 inch or even 6 inch pipe with a network of steamer hydrants spaced 500 feet or less apart with high-flow rates such as 1,000 gpm, your house is in danger.

IWD has 150,000 feet of mixed-pipe sizes as small as 2 inches, feeding small substandard hydrants in residential areas. Much of it has exceeded its 50-year life expectancy.

They have only replaced 3,900 feet of pipe/hydrants in nearly 20 years and little of it replaced the 2-inch pipe, less than a tenth of what Pine Cove Water has installed in the same time, which has a third fewer amounts of pipe. Most of IWD pipe is residential, not commercial.

Just by the numbers, IWD has a substandard residential pipe/hydrant replacement plan. Even the last pipe maintenance replaced 8-inch pipe with 8-inch pipe in an area that already had high-flow compared to most district pipe. Why is it that pipe/hydrant replacement primarily occur on commercial high-flow lines/hydrants, given that the majority of district hydrants are low-flow, single-outlet substandard residential hydrants?

You deserve to know if the hydrant next to you has failed to meet minimum-flow requirements of a single house fire, let alone a wind-driven wildlands burn-over.

Take a picture of the three closest hydrants, noting their street, cross street and nearest addresses. Walk into the water and fire departments and ask for “in writing,” the last measured flow data from these hydrants, note the painted label on the side of the hydrant, and the size of pipe feeding the hydrant. Do not accept a verbal good-ole-boy, pat-on-the-back answer.

Then call another insurance company, not yours, and ask what minimum flows should be from these hydrants. If that doesn’t work, call John Hawkins, Riverside County
Fire chief, and ask him these questions. Then attend the next water and fire department board meetings with your info — IWD is 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Dec. 20 and Jan. 17, and IFPD is 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Chances are none of you will do this where it matters and hence, continuation of the outrageous mess as it exists today. ISO ratings won’t save your home from a burn-over, insurance company cancellation or substandard water-delivery system. Hold these board members accountable for residential pipe/hydrant replacement.

As for Pine Cove, your value-added aggressive pipe/hydrant replacement/expansion plan brings added safety to our homes. If you want to know more, call the general manager in adjacent districts and ask why residential hydrant/pipe upgrades are so important. Wake up, Idyllwild, before it’s too late.

Jeff Smith

Pine Cove

Editor’s note: As always, the opinions and factual claims of our columnists, letter writers and Another Point of View contributors are not necessarily endorsed or agreed with by the Town Crier editors. The Town Crier welcomes views from all writers, including those writing in Another Point of View. In particular, we hereby extend to the Idyllwild Water District and the Idyllwild Fire Protection District opportunities to respond to this piece with separate Another Point of View pieces of their own.